Ports of Entry into the United States have existed for decades. However, it has not always been solely Ellis Island in New York as many people may have believed. So as you search for where and when your ancestors arrived in American, do not concentrate solely on Ellis or even New York.
Ellis Island did not open until January 1, 1892, so if you have found your earliest ancestors arrived before that date, you can’t look at Ellis. Another earlier major entry port in New York Harbor was Castle Garden, then Philadelphia in PA and Baltimore in Maryland.
Castle Garden was opened for immigration between 1855 and 1890. Some eight million immigrants passed through here. To search Castle Garden online site, it will cover immigrants beyond the use of Castle Garden, from 1820 to 1913. When doing any search keep in mind there may be various surname spellings and an ancestor may have come from a different homeland than you first thought.
For Ellis Island, the site covers 1892 to 1954 with some 12 million immigrations.
With Philadelphia’s port it was the most popular during the colonial times (1700s) and it continued to be until 1825 when New York port came into use. Using FamilySearch.org site will help with entries into Philadelphia, but only for certain years. If you can use Ancestry.com that covers 1800-1850 and some 1.6 millions records.
Baltimore, Maryland had its first immigrates about 1634. Also using FamilySearch.org you can find immigrates for Baltimore for 1820-1948.
Other ports of entries that should be checked include Boston, Massachusetts (a major port for those coming from Scotland, England or Ireland); San Francisco, California (for those coming from Asia); as well a Savannah, Georgia; Miami, FL; New Orleans, LA and Galveston, Texas. Also, an immigrate may have come into a Canadian port and later entered the United States. Many times the reason for entering via a different port was because the ship an immigrate was traveling on only entered through a specific port.
There are certain historic time periods when there large numbers of immigrates from a specific location. Immigrants from Germany soared to 1,275,000 from 1845 to 1860 as people fled the rocky mid-19th century revolutionary years in Germany.
Photos: 1895 immigrants at Port of Boston; Castle Garden port and New Orleans port in 1900.
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